There are a number of ways scientists believe the universe will ultimately end. The Big Rip, in which the universe stretches itself apart. The Big Crunch, kind of the opposite of the Big Bang, where the expansion of the universe reverses and all matter returns to a small chunk of space.
And then there’s collapse.
Physicists at the University of Southern Denmark have some potentially bad news regarding that last one: the universe may already be collapsing, and we just don’t know it yet.
This has to do with one aspect of the Higgs particle that I’ve mentioned on and off since last year, in which the value of said particle may determine the potential for the universe to undergo a spontaneous phase transition, essentially causing all matter to implode at the speed of light.
What the physicists found is only half new. We’ve long known that one of the possible end-times scenarios for the universe was collapse, which would occur when every particle in the universe becomes orders of magnitude heavier than they are now — we’re talking millions of billions of times heavier.
This would invariably cause every particle to collapse into a singularity, leading to the universe becoming a hot, dense ball of matter. It’s called phase transition, which is a fancy term to describe when something undergoes a change from one state to another (like, say, when boiling water becomes steam).
Well, the physicists in Denmark have now confirmed this idea with mathematics, meaning that collapse will “probably” occur given what we currently know about the universe. They also found something else: that this collapse is far more likely and may happen far sooner than initially predicted. It may even be happening right now.
According to co-author Jens Frederik Colding Krog, “Maybe the collapse has already started somewhere in the universe and right now it is eating its way into the rest of the universe. Maybe a collapse is starting right now right here. Or maybe it will start far away from here in a billion years. We do not know.”
However, this depends completely on the make-up of the universe, and whether or not there are more undiscovered particles out there that might change our current model. If so, the collapse won’t happen. Or it might not happen, regardless. Whatever the case, you can read more about this uplifting story at Phys.org.
Ironically, last year I posted news that cosmologists had determined the universe would rip itself apart sooner than predicted. So, I guess, either way we’re doomed sooner than predicted.